Today's poem is by Clay Matthews

Take One

I was west of home but still east of everything
big, eating a chili dog under a canopy at one
of the lovely unhealthy walk-up window restaurants
we people in the middle love so much (as do you,
too, I'm sure). Mustard and onions. I had to point
at this little narrative and tell him to wipe off his shirt.
And nothing like what's left-over in the world
anymore, nothing like rivers, nothing like white-walls,
nothing like French fries made from scratch
every day. Nothing like nothing, and oh Cordelia
I wish you were here to hold my hand and see this. I look
out across the water and at the tourists in their funny
shoes and bright greens and blues and oranges
and at all the families moving up and down the sidewalks
like atoms, each one hoping for something better
for the others and for themselves at once, which is
the problem sometimes, as what is better for one
is worse for another, as the electrons and protons
charge themselves up for something more but ultimately
slow down to their regularly-scheduled status. Do you believe
we have a course mapped out for us? Do you have a plot
yourself? I don't know what to believe these days and these
hot afternoons but I'm both comforted and terrified
that the end of the plot is a plot. And I'd like to be burned
up to nothing and let loose on the wind but my wife
is scared of fires and thinks it would be better if we
were to rest in eternity next to each other. This requires
some planning, I assume, but all I know is that it's easier
not to talk about it. The world is a word is a wood.
Or something like that. I'm just wondering if digging
one's own grave is the same thing as seeing the future.
Because I see it all the time. I see my last bite right now.
I see family #3 riding off with a bon voyage as the sun
sets in the west, and a life of loving and hating one another
until pg. 346, on which the mother dies of cancer and it all turns
out to be not what they'd planned for, not what they had
ordered standing here beside me—five chocolate milkshakes
(make one vanilla), five jolly burgers and five fries. The fire
of the day is burning me up. I'm melting... I'm melting,
and the ice cream is, too. Then before we know it the day
is done and the sun makes his exit. And for some reason
the only thing I can think of are all those rules about tragedies,
about the time, about the complication, about the unraveling.
I walk to my car and consider the scene as aptly closed. Then I
start the engine and pull out into something dark and epic.

Copyright © 2007 Clay Matthews All rights reserved
from Brooklyn Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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